Mass suicide attempt in Russian jail

Mass suicide attempt in Russian jail

The convicts all attempted suicide after being placed in solitary confinement over their collective refusal to go out on the daily walk in the quad of the penal colony in the Volga River city of Engels, it said.

Jailers at the facility had earlier taken "special measures" to punish prisoners for their refusal, the statement said. It suggested the jailers' actions were behind the mass suicide attempt, without giving further details. "In answer to the actions of the employees at the penal colony, the convicts who were in solitary confinement began cutting their veins," it said.

"As a result, 10 men were wounded," it added. "All the prisoners, who tried to end their lives by suicide, have been given special medical care." Interfax news agency reported that between 10 and 15 prisoners were involved in the incident.

An employee of the local prosecutors' office told reporters that investigators had launched a probe into the conditions at the penal colony. "There were some problems. Whether they are related to the suicides or not, I cannot yet say. Investigators have been sent to the site," the employee said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The incident is the latest scandal to hit the Russian prison service after the death in pre-trial detention last year of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. His supporters say poor conditions and neglect led to his death. President Dmitry Medvedev vowed reforms in December, sacking 20 top officials in the penal system -- a largely Soviet legacy that houses the world's second largest prison population after the United States.

The death of Magnitsky, who had been awaiting trial in a highly controversial financial case, put the spotlight on the fate of thousands of other inmates in Russia's overcrowded jails.